Virginiae offers good home cooking Roman-style. It’s a family run restaurant and Mamma is doing a sterling job in the kitchen. The decor is a little kitsch – fake ionic columns and Imperial-style metal balustrades (our source of local knowledge tells us it used to be a carpet shop, with the wares draped over them) – but it’s pleasant, very good value for a restaurant that’s spacious despite its location close to Piazza Navona, and the service is charming.
Antipasti (€9 – €11) include the intriguingly named soute di cozze e vongole (obviously a mixture of mussels and clams but I confess I don’t know what a soute is either – saute perhaps?). Or there’s bresaola, rughetta and parmesan or prosciutto from Norcia, reckoned to be some of the best.
Primi are similar in price and here the meat influence becomes stronger, as there are dishes here that are typical of Roman cuisine but not for the faint-hearted – such as rigatoni con pajata, which is veal intestines… It’s a surprisingly rich dish, incidentally. But there are plenty of other options such as home-made gnocchi on Thursdays (a Roman tradition, along with tripe on Saturday) with a choice of tomato or ragù sauce, ravioli with ricotta and spinach, lasagne, and for seafood lovers, linguine alla scoglio – good filling fare.
Secondi (€11 – €15) again feature both meat and fish – a highlight is the highly recommended abacchio alla romana, the wonderful slow-cooked lamb on the bone, but osso bucco is there too, along with coniglio alla cacciatore and either sea bream (orata) or turbot (rombo) cooked to order.
We didn’t manage a pudding (fairly standard dolci are €5) but had the treat of trying the home-made limoncello and amaro with some cantucci (the hard, nutty biscuits usually served with Vin Santo) and some spectacularly good ring shaped sweet biscuits rather like the ones you find on the Venetian islands.
House wine at €9 per per litre for white, €10 for red is highly drinkable and good value.